Every year a set of new technologies and technological gadgets go to market with the promise of helping runners perform better and limit running related injuries. Some of these new technologies seem like good ideas, but many of them become outdated quickly and fade away. What new products have come out that I may not have seen? - Techless in Techtown
New ideas for clothing, shoes, vitamin supplements, high carbohydrate foods, low carbohydrate foods, hydration, injury protection, and performance monitoring are in a never ending state of market introduction to the running consumer in search of a competitive edge. While many of these products are genuinely useful and original, others are much less so. To illustrate this, I've selected the top four worst ideas brought to the competitive runners' marketplace in the past year.
•SCRBA (Self Contained Running Breathing Apparatus) - Pronounced Scrubba by the company that first developed it, the SCRBA VO2 Maximizer is a product which attempts to improve an athlete's performance by dramatically increasing the intake of oxygen. The unit, which looks surprisingly like a scuba gear tank and regulator for underwater divers, features a positive pressure esophagus tube that the user is meant to wear, most uncomfortably, down the throat. The unit provides a constant flow of pure oxygen deep into the lungs as the athlete competes in their particular event. Unfortunately, the unit weighs about the same as a standard scuba tank, and tends to offset any supposed benefit in increased oxygen processing by slowing a runner down. The developers of this technology seem to have only half read the medical book chapters covering the physiology of oxygen transport, and missed the part where V02 max improvement is something that is effected by age, gender, altitude and training. VO2 max improvement cannot be neither figuratively or literally jammed down your throat.
•Ferro Magnetic Socks - Although I'll spare you my immeasurable disdain for the use of "magnetic therapy" in anything other than holding newspaper clippings to refrigerator doors, the most recent trends in such quackery have found their way into the catalogs and pages of runners magazines. Rather than explaining to you exactly why "Ferro Magnetic Socks" are an amazingly stupid idea, let me cast my rancor upon the entire field of "magnetic therapy" products by warning you that: magnets are to human tissue what toothpaste is to oatmeal. Make sense to you? Enough said.
•SCHRO (Self Contained Hydration Reclamation Outfit) - This product is just wrong. Some brainiac must have read too many Frank Herbert science fiction books, and thought it would be quaint to turn the fictional "Still Suit" into reality. Fortunately for us runners, we are not so lazy as to be concerned with carrying our own supply of hydration fluids, but for those who want to dress up like the "Boy in the Plastic Bubble", you can purchase and wear your very own "Self Contained Hydration Reclamation Outfit", which is nothing more than a clear plastic jumpsuit with a plastic hose melded into the leg seam. The suit gives you the pleasure of drinking your own perspiration. (Insert sarcastic tone here) "Yeah, sure. Sign me up for some of that!".
Finally, our last example of a new and so called "improved" product to make your running more efficient, enjoyable and improve performance is something that came out last summer, and has since been banned on all continents due to safety issues.
Before I tell you what it is, I need to explain the thought process that went into its development. Dangerous inventors have way too much time on their hands, and one such person was fascinated by the distance runners consumption of "carbohydrate paste". These food gels are most often used by marathoners to help maintain blood sugar levels in an attempt to fuel the body in the latter stages of a race or long run.
The person who came up with the idea for this new food product specifically engineered for runners, became fascinated by the idea that distance runners would consume just about anything to gain a competitive edge. Also, this person was obsessed with the exact measurements of caloric burn. So obsessed was this person, that he actually spent many months calculating the exact number of kilojoules required of a marathoner during a race.
Aside from the energy spent in the act of running itself, the person went so far as to calculate the energy required for breathing, sweating, eye movement, cardiovascular functions of the heart, enzyme secretion, and involuntary generation of electricity for the smallest of metabolic functions you don't even want to think about. He also calculated the energy required to digest food.
Catabolic dieting is not a new concept. The fact that a 300 calorie chunk of chocolate requires 50 calories to be burned in its digestion (yielding a net gain of 250 calories to be glued to your thighs) is the basis for several bland and tasteless diets praised by leaf eaters across the planet.
But the inventor of this product wasn't satisfied with creating an energy supplement with the reasonable qualities of catabolic foods, au contraire: this guy figured out a way to produce a food that took absolutely no energy to digest, while at the same time ensuring that this food would be "calorie free" for those weight conscious runners who are looking for a competitive edge.
•Bag o' Pebbles - The result of his research carried the brand name "Bag o' Pebbles", and was: true to its name, simply a bag of small, millimeter sized pebbles in a handy plastic container.
I hope these examples have helped you to understand that while technology moves us closer to the day when we'll all be wearing jet packs and spending our summers at our Lunar cottages on Mare Tranquillitatis, the science of running will always remain pure, and generally unaffected by whatever new tool or toy comes out this year.
Run long and taper.